The coolest appliance technology demo we saw at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show (CES)? Without a doubt it was Whirlpool’s induction countertop cooking concept (or prototype), where one can cook right on a countertop, thanks to powerful induction magnets mounted beneath it—while downloading recipes, sorting through social media, and playing your favorite tunes.
It’s Tom Cruise’s Minority Report charade meets Corning’s viral A Day Made of Glass videos meets… well… the kitchen. Check out the video below. It is certainly co-ooool.
We couldn't resist asking Whirlpool’s Director of Global Creative Design Chris Quatrochi just how realistic this “technology” is:
When do you think it will be possible to have an induction cooktop prototype shown as CES, with a virtual keyboard and moveable, controllable apps?
It is always difficult to predict the journey from product prototype to retail, with so many technology and manufacturing variables at play. Our design team loves that this vision into the future ignited so many questions at CES and received such an overwhelming response as to what the kitchen of the future might look like. We know the desire for this seamless connectivity in the kitchen is real, and the hope is to have a working version of this in the near future.
One day, we will live in a reality where induction technology will have evolved to allow the perusal of recipes with the swipe of a finger directly next to a steaming pot.
It has the feel of Corning's Day Made of Glass videos, with the Minority Report swiping of an interactive surface. But I wonder how close we are to making that a reality. Are there still technical hurdles?
Certainly, but the idea itself is what is really exciting. To have the ability of using all the technology I am familiar with in my daily life—like hands-free devices and capacitive touch—on just one surface and in the place where I am likely already spending a majority of my time feels like the Jetsons-age, but might not be as far away as we imagine. One day, we will live in a reality where induction technology will have evolved to allow the perusal of recipes with the swipe of a finger directly next to a steaming pot.
First should we get Americans over the fear of induction cooktops? What are the market hurdles?
The biggest hurdle for induction is using the right cookware. The next hurdle is getting people to associate induction cooking with gas performance, not traditional electric. That will happen as technology evolves to give the user superior control over cooking. For example, an induction cooktop can sense when water boils, so we can automatically adjust the temperature to prevent boil-over.
Would the virtual induction cooktop you showed at CES fit more into the augmented reality technology, a la Google Glass?
The cooktop was a demonstration of merging several consumer needs (cooking, social media and every-day communication) and creating a seamless experience. As devices like glass and watches and televisions all have this ability, we expect the appliances will need to fit into, and support these new needs and behaviors.
Whirlpool is reportedly working on an automated inventory system for refrigerators, so a smart fridge can keep a grocery list for you and interact with a smart oven or other to coordinate the purchase, storage and preparation of ingredients for recipes, etc. Is it a final link to the smart and connected kitchen, or do touchscreen fridges remain a bunch of high-tech hooey?
Automated inventory is certainly a critical part of the evolution of the connected kitchen. At Whirlpool, we see appliances developing toward a fully connected part of the home where they can anticipate and understand a family’s needs, not necessarily just talk to one another. The connectivity between appliances is just one piece of the smart equation. As we continue to use Internet-based products like smartphones, more and more information is available that allows customization of the appliances, so they can operate to the way you live—not the other way around (for example pre-heating on the way home from the soccer field or auto-programming for recipes found on the web).